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Monday, February 29, 2016

Vietnamese Vermicelli Bowl for One

Vietnamese food can often seem like the most marvelous combination of Chinese and French cuisines. It’s the adaptability of the Chinese and the sauces of the French that they marry so well. I think what I love best (after the fresh mint and cilantro) is that they don’t shy away from serving hot foods with cold salad ingredients.
For the Dressing:
                2 TBLSP white vinegar (I like rice, but any pale vinegar will do)
                ½ TBLSP granulated sugar
                ½ TBLSP lime juice (or lemon)
                1 inch of carrot, finely grated or shredded
                Itty bitty slosh of soy sauce
For the Noodles:
                1 serving (about as many noodles as you can contain between your forefinger and thumb) vermicelli noodles (ramen-style noodles work nicely, too)
    Boiling water
For the Veggies: (any combination of the following—use your own favorites)
                A blop of olive or peanut oil. Probably less than a tablespoon.
     1 carrot, sliced thinly or julienned
                1 mushroom, cut in half and then sliced thinly
                2 slices of yellow onion, diced
                1 clove garlic, minced
    ¼ head broccoli, cut into florets
    1 very large handful of fresh spinach, chopped roughly
                2 ounces baked tofu, diced or sliced
    1 handful mung bean sprouts
    7 or 8 slices of zucchini, quartered
For the Crunchies:
                Small handful of lettuce
                1 or 2 sprigs of fresh cilantro or parsley
                2 sprigs of fresh mint
    2 slices of cucumber, diced into tiny cubes
                1 TBLSP peanuts, crushed or chopped (I also use raw cashews. Delicious!)

For the Dressing:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Be sure to get the sugar mixed in there.

For the Noodles:
  • If you’re using Italian pasta-style vermicelli noodles, get the water boiling and get the noodles in there. The veggies will go fast. Drain the finished noodles and place in a serving bowl.
  • If you’re using ramen-style noodles, follow manufacturer’s directions. Mine say to run water over the noodles (in a strainer) and then stir-fry the noodles until they’re the right consistency. Place in the serving bowl.

For the Veggies:
  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Settle the veggies (not the tofu or spinach yet) into the oil, and stir fry until the carrots soften. About 4 minutes.
  2. Add in the tofu and spinach, and stir-fry until the tofu is heated through and the spinach is wilted. About 2 minutes.
  3. Place in the serving bowl with the noodles. I like to make stripes—noodles, veggies, and crunchies.

For the Crunchies:
  1. Apply the crunchies artfully to the top of your creation.
  2. Sprinkle the peanuts over the top.
  3. Swozzle the whole thing with the yummy dressing.

It looks like a lot of food, but trust me, you can do it!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Carrot and Apple Salad for One

I kept thinking that carrots (which are sweet and crunchy) and apples (which are sweet and crunchy) ought to hang out together. So on one too-warm day, I gave it a try. Happiness ensued.

2 carrots, julienned or shredded
½ green apple, julienned or shredded (I like grannysmith)
¼ cucumber, julienned or cut into matchsticks
1/8 red onion, diced small
2 green onions, chopped
¼ cup finely diced Italian parsley (cilantro or curly parsley would be nice too)
1 ½ TBLSP pumpkin seeds (sunflower seeds—any seed really)
1 ½- 2 TBLSP rice vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
¾ teaspoon yellow mustard
Garlic powder
Dried tarragon
Dried coriander
Salt and pepper

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, place the veggies (carrot, apple, cucumber, onions, and parsley) and toss in the seeds.
  2. In a tiny bowl, combine the dressing ingredients (vinegar, oil, mustard, and herbs and spices to taste). You’ll probably want a whisk for this.
  3. Swozzle the dressing over the veggies and stir gently.
Serve with something substantial—like a sandwich or a veggie-dog. It’s a light and fluffy salad!

It would probably do well at a picnic or potluck (in larger quantity, of course). I made a double batch, and it was still pretty crisp and tasty the next day. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bánh Xèo—Vietnamese Crepes—for One

I had this in a restaurant and it was so good, I scurried home to figure out how to make it myself. OMG. It’s SOOOO worth the wait for the batter. You could put the batter together at breakfast time and then cook up the meal for lunch or dinner, and you’ll hardly even notice the wait. Or maybe leave it overnight. You DO want to wait though. The flavors intensify with time.

For the Crepe:
¼ cup rice flour
2 TBLSP all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon turmeric (more, if you like a stronger color)
½ cup water
¼ cup coconut milk (other non-dairy milks work too)
Pinch salt
Vegetable oil (for cooking)
For the Filling:
½ cup of any combination of the following:
Cooked broccoli
Scallion, chopped small
Carrots, julienned
Mushroom, lightly sautéed
Mung bean sprouts
Spinach, chopped
Cucumber, diced small
Avocado, sliced
Radish, sliced and diced
Baked tofu, cut into small cubes
For the Crunchies:
Lettuce/spinach leaves
Mint leaves
Cucumber disks
For the Sauce:
2 TBLSP rice vinegar
1 TBLSP water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 TBLSP finely julienned carrot
1 TBLSP finely julienned jicama (optional)

Prepare the Crepe Batter
  1. Combine rice and all-purpose flours, turmeric, water, milk, and salt in a small bowl, and let them sit for at least 3 hours. It should be more like orange juice than pancake batter. The turmeric will get increasingly brighter in time, so go easy on this.

Prepare the Filling:
  1. Cook, sauté, or dice the filling ingredients of your choice. I like to leave them fairly separate when I toss them on my crepe, but you could pile them into a bowl and mix them, too.

Make the Sauce:
  1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. You might want to stir the sugar into the vinegar a bit before adding the carrot and jicama. If this sits for a little while, the vinegar pulls some of the color from the carrots, and you get a pale orange sauce.

Cooking the Crepes:
  1. In a large (12-inches or larger) non-stick frying pan, slosh in a little cooking oil (not much—the crepe will float if it’s too much), wipe most of it up with a paper towel, and heat over medium heat.
  2. Pour in about half of the batter, and quickly rotate and tilt the pan so that the batter spreads evenly over the bottom (not the sides) of the frying pan. Add more batter if you need to get complete coverage. You want it super thin. If the pan is too hot, it will create bubble holes almost immediately.
  3. Add some of the filling items, spread evenly and thinly over the crepe. Cover the pan with a lid for 2-3 minutes. The batter should be transparent around the edges when this time is up. If the crepe is too thick, it will still cook just fine. You can tell if it’s cooked after the next step, if you can pick it up with a wide spatula.
  4. Remove the lid and lower the heat. When the crepe is crisp (another minute or two), fold it in half and slide it onto your serving plate.
  5. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling.

Serve with the crunchies. You can tuck them inside or spread them on top, or maybe tuck them inside individual bites and either dip the bites into the sauce or slosh the sauce over the pile of crepe and veggies.

This may be enough for two. I don’t know. I didn’t have any trouble eating both crepes, but they were delicious and there was no one to prevent me from gluttony. You won't tell, will you? 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Scrambled Tofu for One

There are many variations on this theme, and here is a nice simple one. It’s quick, it’s nutritious, it’s filling, and it’s delicious. Oh, and a very solid protein content, too!

1/2 pound firm tofu (a little more than half a package)
1 TBLSP nutritional yeast flakes
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of salt
Several grinds of black pepper
1 TBLSP chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 mushrooms, sliced
1 green onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Soy sauce or tamari (optional)
  1. Drain the tofu. Put it into a small bowl and mash it with a fork. You want smallish chunks. You could also dice it up, but I like the texture of the fork-mashing better.
  2. Stir in the yeast, turmeric, salt, pepper, and parsley
  3. Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic, and sauté until they’re soft and a little brown around the edges.
  4. Add the tofu, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, just to heat it through. Slosh with a little soy sauce or tamari, if you like.  

Makes about 2 cups.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Waldorf Salad for One

My mom used to make this on a warm summer day—it’s refreshing, fast, and delicious--it's also a nice winter offering. I like to double the recipe and eat it as a main course and it makes a nice side dish for an al fresco meal, too.

½ an apple (sweet or sour, your choice)
1 rib of celery
1 green onion
A handful of raisins
A handful of walnut pieces
1 TBLSP parsley, chopped
1 TBLSP vegan mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
A squirt of lemon juice
½ teaspoon agave nectar
Salt and pepper to taste.
  1. Chop the apples, slice the celery and onion, and put them, with the parsley, raisins, and walnut pieces in a small bowl.
  2. In another small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, zest, lemon juice, agave, and salt and pepper with a whisk. (If you’re taking this on a picnic, don’t add the salt, because it will make things wilt.)
  3. Drizzle the dressing over the apple mixture and stir to combine.

It's great served on a bed of bitter greens, but it does just fine on its own, too. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Roasted Carrot Hummus for One

I make hummus every week. Plain old chickpea could get pretty boring, so I often experiment with different beans and herb combinations with marvelous results. But what happens when the main vegetable isn’t a legume at all? Happiness, I tell you; it makes simple joy.

Makes about a cup of dip.

2 cloves garlic
4 carrots
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 TBLSP tahini
1 TBLSP lemon or lime juice. More, if you like it tart.
1 TBLSP olive oil
Sprinkle of dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  1. Place two naked but whole garlic cloves on a piece of aluminum foil and place that on a baking sheet. 
  2. Cut a large piece of parchment paper (you’ll be wrapping the carrots in it).
  3. Cut the carrots into 1-inch segments. Place them on the large parchment paper.
  4. Sprinkle olive oil (be frugal—you don’t need much) and salt and pepper over the carrots. Rotate ‘em around a bit, to make sure that everything is covered.
  5. Bring two edges of the parchment paper together and fold them several times to make a tight little packet. You’ll want to fold the other edges together too. Tuck and fold until the little darlings are sealed inside there and place the packet on the same baking sheet as the garlic.
  6. Bake everything for 10 minutes. Flip the garlic over and bake for another 10 minutes. (The carrots are getting 20 minutes undisturbed.)
  7. At 20 minutes, pull the garlic out and set the little brownish and soft darlings into the food processor or blender. You can touch the packet to see if the carrots are soft yet. They probably won’t be, and will need another 10 minutes alone in the oven.
  8. Meanwhile, add the tahini, lemon juice, TBLSP of olive oil, salt and pepper, and the parsley to the food processor. You can give ‘em a little preliminary twirl if you are an inveterate button pusher, but it’s not necessary.
  9. When the carrots are soft (a knife should go in fairly easily), open the parchment and plop them into the food processor or blender, and whirl everything until it’s fairly smooth. You might adjust oil or lemon as well as salt and pepper to suit your taste before pulling the gorgeous glop out of the machine.

Serve with Butternut Squash Chips for One (coming soon) or carrots, cucumber, and celery, depending on how lavish you want your treat.

Also makes a great sandwich spread and is especially delicious with Dried Fig Tapenade.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dried Fig Tapenade

Makes about 1 ½ cups.

I live for fig season. But when fresh figs aren’t handy, I don’t let that stop me from getting my fill of these pleasant little flavor bombs. Try this on a cracker with faux cheese, on a hummus sandwich, or, if you’re a real maverick, ladled over nice cream.

1 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the figs and water over medium heat. Bring it to a boil and cook until the figs are tender and most of the liquid is gone.
  2. Crunch up the rosemary and thyme in a mortar and pestle. You don’t want big hunks of rosemary in there. (A coffee mill would do, too, but it’s more brutal than a mortar and pestle, so go lightly.)
  3. Take the figs off the heat and add in the oil, vinegar, rosemary, thyme, olives, and garlic. Mix well.  (If you’re nervous about raw garlic, don’t be. It gets all mixed in with everything else in a lovely way. But if you’re really nervous, go ahead and roast that little clove in the oven for 20 minutes or so.)
  4. Meanwhile, put the walnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until just fragrant and starting to change color.
  5. Taste the fig and olive mixture for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to please your palate. Add in the walnuts, which will make a wonderful hissing and crackling noise because they’re hot.

Refrigerate in an air-tight container for four hours or overnight. It gets better after a day or two, but I can never wait that long.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Broccoli Soup for One

The wind howled all night, and although it’s calm and still now, the temperature must be nearly 20 degrees below what it usually is for this time of day. You'd best make soup to warm up your bones!

¼ cup raw cashews
1 ½ cups water or vegetable broth
¼ onion, chopped fine
1 cup broccoli, chopped coarsely
Pinch dried basil
½ cup cooked white or brown rice
Salt to taste
Pinch ground pepper
  1. In a blender, whirl the cashews and ½ cup of the water or broth until it’s smooth, about a minute. (You could replace this with ¾ cup of non-dairy milk of your choice.)
  2. In a saucepan, add the rest of the water or broth (a cup), and add the onion, broccoli, and basil. Bring the whole thing to a boil, turn the heat down a bit, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the broccoli is tender but not mushy.
  3. Add in the rice and the cashew milk and some salt and pepper. Bring the soup back to a simmer.
  4. Either use an immersion blender or let it cool a bit and send it through the blender or food processor, whirling away until it’s smooth and creamy. Reheat, if necessary. Add salt and pepper, if necessary.

Shown here with chopped pistachios and a little mushroom.